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What is the Best Sleep Pattern for Your Health

Most doctors in the Western world recommend eight hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. It's seen as the optimum length of time to let your body rest and recover, and most people try to rigidly stick to this routine because its been drilled into them since childhood. Your parents probably quoted Benjamin Franklin in an attempt to coax you to your bed: “Early to bed and early to rise makes and man healthy, wealthy and wise.” He was certainly an intelligent guy, but was he right about our sleep patterns? What if your lifestyle isn't compatible with spending eight hour stretches in bed? Here are some of the different sleep patterns that humans adopt, and the advantages and disadvantages of following them.

'Normal' Sleep
Everyone knows the advantages of getting their eight hours in bed, it makes you feel refreshed, increases your concentration the next day, and gives you that well-rested glow. Those who get into a good sleep pattern of going to bed at the same time every night are less likely to suffer from insomnia, so it's much easier for them to drop off naturally. As it's the norm in our society, getting into what's called a monophasic sleep pattern is a lot more social and fits in with the average 9-5 job. It's also been shown to be one of the most natural ways to sleep, as anyone who works shifts will tell you, the human body clock isn't all that adaptable. Unfortunately it can be tough to achieve a long stretch asleep. A third of working adults in the US get less than six hours a night, and need help with their sleep issues. Having stimulants in your body can make things worse, and many people turn to drugs during the day when they haven't had enough sleep. Make a vow that no more drugs will be used to keep you awake, and trying natural remedies instead, will pay dividends.

Things like making a quiet, peaceful area to sleep in are also essential, so block out distractions and invest in an anti-snoring device for your partner. Little things like this can really help you get into a healthier sleep routine.

The Siesta
If you've not had a solid night of sleep, then it can be tempting to take an afternoon nap. For some countries, this is a way of life. They stay up late, get up early, but feel refreshed thanks to a 60-90 minute nap in the afternoon. This is known as biphasic sleep, and means that you still get your eight hours, just not all in one go. Many people with babies and infants also fall into this sleeping pattern, seeing their child's afternoon nap as the perfect time to grab some rest themselves. Countries who have siestas have lower rates of heart disease, it can increase your productivity, and help your reaction time. If you don't have the time for a longer nap, then even 10 minute power nap has been shown to help you through the afternoon. If you can get to bed, then great, but all you need is somewhere quiet and comfortable to recharge. Invest in a sleep mask and an anti-snoring device for your partner to make snoozing easier. Napping at regular intervals

Some alternative sleep patterns such as the Everyman sleep schedule have become popular thanks to the internet. Many bloggers have tried this routine which involves a three hour sleep at night, then three 20 minute naps spaced evenly over the day. Some report that this tricks the body into quickly entering REM sleep, but this hasn't been scientifically proven. Most people struggle to adapt their body and their lifestyle to this routine, and negative side effects can include irritability, depression, lack of concentration, and weight gain.

Uberman Sleep Schedule
For those seeking an extreme change in their schedule, the Uberman schedule means that you can enjoy being awake 22 hours of each day. You just have to learn to take six 20 minute naps, one every four hours. Easy enough, if you don't have school, work, children or any other commitments in your life! However, if you miss a nap, you'll feel dreadful, and trying to fit everything into your four hour waking windows can be impossible. Most people who try Uberman report that they are less productive during their 22 hours awake, feeling lethargic and neurotic. It can also make you feel isolated, while all your friends and family are asleep there's not exactly much to do.

There's nothing like a good night of sleep to make you feel refreshed and ready to face the day ahead. There are many different ways to sleep, but it's been proven that longer sleeps are much better than these sleep schedule fads that come around now and again. Getting yourself into a healthy sleep routine is one of the best things you can do for your body, so don't mess with your body clock.